1. Begin this lesson by showing a map of Tidewater Virginia (below), and noting that many Indian tribes take their names from the rivers or other waterways on which they lived. Divide the class into five groups, each of which will research Virginia’s First Peoples’ experience from the 1600s until today.
2. Each group will research the experiences of First People in a single century—1600s, 1700s, 1800s, 1900s, and today. They will all have several kinds of maps to help them identify where in the colony or state a particular tribe of Indians were located (or were moved). The first is the map of Tidewater Virginia; the second is a map of five regions in the state (Coastal Plain, or Tidewater; the Piedmont, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Valley and Ridge, and the Appalachian Plateau); and the third is a map of Virginia’s Rivers and Streams, also organized in five (someone different) regions. They will also have a website on the Virginia Indian language groups and where they were found.
3. As students conduct their research, they should pay attention to the following questions:
- What is the name of the tribe?
- Where does its name come from and/or mean?
- To what larger language or culture group does the tribe belong?
- Where is the tribe found?
- What has been the tribe’s experience over time?
- Is the tribe one of the eight current “official” Indian tribes of Virginia?
- What interesting cultural, anthropological, or social information have you discovered about this tribe?
4. When the research is complete, students in each group should prepare either a PowerPoint presentation on the First Peoples’ experiences in their century, or a poster that displays the findings they have accumulated. Included in either type of presentations should be dates, maps, names, etc.
5. The lesson can be concluded on a day of sharing when each group presents its knowledge to the rest of the class.
Egloff, Keith, and Woodward, Deborah, eds. First People: The Early Indians of Virginia. Richmond, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1992.
Map of Tidewater Virginia Rivers, Lakes, and Major Towns
The Regions of Virginia
Virginia Rivers and Streams
Virginia Indian Language Groups
Virginia's First Peoples: Meet the Tribes (video)
The Virginia Indians: Meet the Tribes Activity Book
Virginia's First Peoples: History
Virginia's First Peoples: Culture
This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.